Justice Is Served

March 4, 2010 6:45 PM

Z's coming back; Z's coming back; Z's ...?

3409045314_2c22f6c477_m.jpgFew men who cover the NBA have more credibility than my boy David Aldridge, one of the sideline voices on the NBA for TNT. So when Aldridge tweeted that Zydrunas Ilgauskas wants to return to the Cavaliers, that's as bankable as one of Oprah Winfrey's checks. 

I'd bet my weekly unemployment check on Aldridge's say-so. 

Quoting Z's agent Herb Rudoy this afternoon, Aldridge sent this tweet: "Zydrunas has decided to wait until March 22 and has asked me to enter into negotiations with the Cavs on that day." 

If a Cavs fan longed to hear any better news than this, I can't imagine what that news might be, aside from, oh, LeBron James saying he'll take a max contract next season and forego free agency.

The latter would be Christmas in March, but I guess Cavs fans will have to settle for Thanksgiving in March. For they surely have plenty to be thankful about after hearing news that Z wants to again be part of what's happening here. 

Not that anybody with smart money bet a dime of it that Z, 34, might sign elsewhere, rumors notwithstanding. People knew that the whole Antawn Jamison trade was built around Z's return. It was a good trade to bring in Jamison; it becomes a great trade in bringing Z back. 

His return is more crucial to the Cavs now that Shaquille O'Neal (thumb injury) is sidelined until the playoffs, and even then, the Cavaliers can't be certain what Shaq will be able to contribute, which means somebody with Z's size and NBA experience has immediate value as well as long-term value. 

He will shore up an area of weakness, although no one can look for Z to be Shaq.

But just being Z seems good enough. For with Jamison and the developing J.J. Hickson in the front court, the Cavs are stronger team now than they were a season ago. They are also deeper, taller and more athletic, and they have the unquestioned marquee name in basketball: LeBron James.

Still, having Z and all these other pieces are no guarantees that an NBA title will be making its way to Cleveland in mid-June. A lot of other unexpected things can occur between then and now.  Someone else could get hurt, thinning the ranks of a deep bench. 

For now, the Cavs will muddle along without a "true" center until negotiations bring Z back after March 22. They are playing well without a big presence in the middle, although they've been playing the mutts of the NBA. GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown didn't design the March schedule, but if they had, they would have made it shake out this way. 

Their team should be in good shape when Z returns, and he should fit into Brown's rotation as seamlessly as he always has. He won't be Shaq. Who is? That's OK. The Cavs just needed someone else who had size to keep the better centers in the league from pitching a tent in the paint. 

Z can do that -- and more. Thank goodness, whatever he wants to do next, he wants to do it here in Wine and Gold. 

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